Back To the Ripperton

Tomorrow morning, bright and early my son Jamie and I head out for our annual summer camping trip. This year is a special initiation of sorts–I will be teaching him to fly fish. No, it’s not the Ripperton River from the Zxap Jacket. Indeed, Jamie’s home waters will be as far from mine as possible in the 48 states. I learned to fish in NY State on the Esopus River and Schoharie Creek, both tributaries of the Hudson flowing from the Catskill Mountains. Jamie will learn to fish on the Kings River and its feeder streams in California. How different they feel and appear yet how similar will be the feelings each evokes in the initiate. Sometimes I pause to reflect that my third child, my younger son, is a Californian. His mountains are the Santa Monicas and the Sierras. Mine were the Catskills and more generally, the Appalachians. The western world is bold and dramatic with towering peaks and snow covered rocky faces that feed icy water into swift and steep falling rivers. My mountains–those which are so sorely abused in the Zxap Jacket, are older, softer, tree covered autumn carpets with gentler waters feeding into occasional falls and cascades. One can walk the eastern streams in waders most of the year if willing to face the cold. Not so out here where the rivers pull with a vengeance and the waters remain cold most of the time. Of course, dam flow is always dangerous anywhere.

It will be a challenge to fit my Catskill experience to these waters, let alone teach my 11 year old. Fly fishing is a form of mediation in a way. He may not be ready for it, or may simply find it out of sync with his i pod driven universe. But he is an open minded lad and the mountains of Sequoia Park and Kings Canyon are wonderful with or without a rod. We will certainly have fun. His older brother caught his first fish on Schoharie Creek. Some of my fondest memories are playing in the creek with my little girl in one of the local ponds, the mayflies rising, the shadows dancing under the
heavily leafed trees across the shining riffles.

It cannot help but bring me to the Ripperton, though, and its sparkling clear, acid dead waters. I hope that my children’s children will not have to experience the fiction I have anticipated. The gentle valleys of the Catskills are so beautiful and steeped in American history and lore. Whenever I pick up my reel, tie on a leader or change a fly,
I find those fondest images of my home waters there to greet me. I hope this is the beginning of many for Jamie, but either way, he is sure to connect with the water as he has never done before.

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